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Billionaire Slammed After Musing About Workers Paid $2 A Day

Nothing ignites controversy like having one of the world's richest women tell her fellow Australians that they need to cut labor costs in order to compete with Africans who are "willing to work for less than $2 a day."

Georgina "Gina" Rinehart, who the BBC says earns about $600 a second from the mining company she inherited, says in a video she posted on the website of the that Australia is just too costly for businesses such as hers and that she worries "for this country's future" because it's so much less expensive to mine and manufacture elsewhere.

"Business as usual will not do," she says, in the pitch for lower taxes and creation of a special economic zone.

Her comments, especially the reference to "$2 a day," led Australian Greens Party leader Sen. Christine Milne to call Rinhart the "epitome of the greed and the abuse of the environment that has become such a characteristic of the mining industry in Australia," according to News.Com.Au.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard said "it's not the Australian way to toss people $2, to toss them a gold coin, and then ask them to work for a day," theLos Angeles Times writes. "We support proper Australian wages and decent working conditions."

Rinehart is no stranger to controversy. She recently wrote that there "is no monopoly on becoming a millionaire" and that "if you're jealous of those with more money, don't just sit there and complain. Do something to make more money yourself — spend less time drinking or smoking and socializing, and more time working."

Australian Deputy Prime Minister and Treasurer Wayne Swan said Rinehart's words were an "insult to the millions of Australian workers who go to work and slog it out to feed the kids and pay the bills," the Herald Sun says.

Forbes currently lists Rinehart as the world's 29th-richest person, with a net worth of $18 billion, and the wealthiest woman from the Asia/Pacific region. She could be headed toward becoming the world's richest person, the magazine speculated last year.

It puts her at No. 35 on its list of world's "most powerful women."

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Mark Memmott is NPR's supervising senior editor for Standards & Practices. In that role, he's a resource for NPR's journalists – helping them raise the right questions as they do their work and uphold the organization's standards.